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What is allergy skin testing?

Allergy skin testing helps diagnose allergies. Allergy skin testing can identify 10 to 50 specific substances, called allergens, which cause allergy symptoms in children and adults. Common allergens include foods, latex, medications, insect stings, and environmental particles, such as dust, pollen and mold.

An allergist will interpret your allergy skin testing results in relation to your medical history, physical exam, and other tests. An allergist, also known as an allergist-immunologist, has the specialized skills and experience needed to read allergy skin testing results properly. 

Allergy skin testing is only one method used to diagnose allergies. You may have less invasive testing options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your testing choices before having allergy skin testing. 

Types of allergy skin testing

The types of allergy skin testing include:

  • Prick/puncture/scratch skin test involves applying a diluted allergen with a small prick, puncture, or scratch to the skin’s surface.

  • Intradermal test involves injecting a diluted allergen below the skin surface using a tiny needle. Doctors sometimes use intradermal tests after a negative scratch skin test to collect more information about possible allergens.

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may combine allergy skin testing with the following tests and procedures to diagnose allergies:

  • Allergy symptom log to record when you have symptoms, how long they last, what you were doing at the time, what medications you took, and how the medication worked.

  • Elimination diet to eliminate certain foods one by one to see if certain foods cause allergy symptoms

  • Food log to record the foods you eat and if they cause allergy symptoms

  • RAST (radioallergosorbent test), a blood test to help identify the substances that cause your symptoms

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Dec 21, 2012

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Medical References

  1. Allergic Rhinitis/Diagnosis & Tests. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/allergic-rhinitis/diagnosis-tests.html.
  2. Allergy Testing. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. http://www.acaai.org/allergist/allergies/treatment/diagnosing-allergies/pages/allergy-testing.aspx
  3. Skin Testing for Allergies. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. http://www.acaai.org/allergist/allergies/Treatment/diagnosing-allergies/Pages/skin-testing-allergies....
  4. What is Skin Testing for Allergies? Children’s Hospital Colorado. http://www.childrenscolorado.org/wellness/info/parents/89105.aspx.

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